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Gmail + Aliases

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Some email providers support something called “plus” addressing. Gmail is one of them. It’s not a well-known feature; in fact, I don’t believe it is even documented in the Gmail help pages.

Essentially, “plus” addressing lets you create aliases by appending additional characters to the account name part of your email address. To do this, precede it by a plus sign (+). For example, if your gmail address is johnsmith@gmail.com you can create the following alias:

johnsmith+test@gmail.com

No matter what valid characters you place after the plus sign (up to eight characters max), the mail will be delivered to you Gmail inbox.

So, why would you want to do this? There are a couple reasons I can think of. One is to (try) to control future spam. When you sign up for something at a web site, instead of giving your regular Gmail address, make one up for the site. For example, if you were to sign up for a free newsletter at extrahotsizzlingstocktips.com you might use the email address of johnsmith+extrahot@gmail.com.

Since you can see the “To:” address in your gmail messages, you can see if any future spam from other sites are using this address. If so, you know where it came from. At that point, you can treat emails to that address as spam. (Of course, I’m sure some sites will have this naming scheme figured out and sell your real gmail email, but many probably won’t)

You can also search and sort your email based upon the “plus” address. If each service you are signed up to is given a different email alias, you can search on that alias, or set up labels to automatically file these emails into unique labels.

If you aren’t using this to control spam, you can set up broad email aliases and associated label categories like “stocks”, “banks”, “technicl” (8 characters max) and so on. Then, you would use johnsmith+stocks@gmail.com for all your stock investment services, johnsmith+banks@gmail.com for all your bank accounts and johnsmith+technicl@gmail.com for all your technical site sign ups. Everything will be neatly organized under the associated labels.

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Mark Fleming is the founder of a new blog called Google Tutor & Advisor. Google Tutor & Advisor offers in-depth Tips, Techniques and Advice for Google Users.

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Gmail + Aliases
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  • http://www.google.com/notebook/public/10523265162948004673/BDSHDQwoQ8ZTTmKIj Spies

    Very nice. Worked like a charm.

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